THANKSGIVING AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Deuteronomy 8:1-10 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Philippians 4:6-20 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen
Luke 17:11-19 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus 'feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Thanksgiving 2020 is nothing like what any of us would have imagined it to be at this time last year. No, at a time especially known for its family gatherings around turkey, potatoes, squash and pie, the last thing that we’d have expected would have been our Premier pleading with us to stay home and apart from others for this holiday. Stay put is what everyone is saying, don’t come together to celebrate with each other, give thanks on your own.
No, none of us would have expected this and I dare say that none of us is too happy or thankful about it either. Yes, this day was (as it still is for us) about giving thanks to God for the harvest that is being gathered in all around us, but if the story is true, it also is all about coming together, as I learned it in the bad old culturally insensitive days of my youth, the pilgrims did with the Indians or as we would say today the first European colonialists and First Nations did.
Thanksgiving? Yea, that might be a bit of a stretch this year for many of us. Thanksgiving for what? Indeed, beloved, it might be a bit hard this year as Covid 19 takes yet more away from us that we love and enjoy. In the Gospel today, the nine lepers fail to return to the Lord and give thanks because they are distracted by all the good stuff that they got going on. Yea, that may have been more of a problem for us in other years. Like little kids, who are so taken up with their gifts that they forget to say thanks to the giver, when the goings good it can be easy to forget to thank the Lord for it all.
No, I’d venture to say that ain’t our problem this year, no, not by a long shot. Rather, what we don’t have, or have lost, is what can get in the way of seeing what we have had, or still do have, this year. Yes, beloved, it would be easy right now to become so focused on what’s missing this year, that we fail to give thanks for all that we had before. Indeed, we can let what we have lost deepen our sadness over what is missing, or we can let what’s missing highlight all that was given and render thanks to the Lord for how richly we were blessed in the past.
And yes, all that we have lost can easily blind us to what we still have. Yea, in this small corner of Ontario we have a lot to give thanks for. The Lord in His mercy through His holy angels has shielded us to a great extent from Covid 19. Yes, every sniffle and tickle in the throat can cause us to worry like anyone else in these trying times but its a lot easier for us to comfort ourselves with the fact that is not likely for us to have contracted the virus than it is for many poor people living in the heart of Toronto.
Yes, with all that’s been taken away we still have much to be thankful for in all that the Lord continues to pour out on us. People might be going nutty about toilet paper again, (just another example of the truth that we never learn) and you might have a hard time getting it at Costco but there was huge pile of it at Zehrs in Listowel the other day. Yes, this is a year to turn our eyes away from all that is missing and focus on what is still there. I know that may be hard, beloved, but even with all that’s missing, even with all that’s hanging over our heads and weighing us down we have so … so much to be thankful for in this land.
No, we may not be having a turkey dinner with all our friends and family but, unlike many in this world, we do have something on our plates. I know that that might sound a little bit like the whole starving kids in Africa line that mom and dad give to kids who turn up their noses at their veggies, but as your spiritual father in Christ it is my duty to remind you of such things. The Lord may take away, but He always remains the One who gave ,and He only ever takes away to highlight what was given and what remains. He wants you to take a moment this year and ponder that, that you might repent for the times you weren’t as thankful as you should have been for what was given and be blessed and moved to thanks for what remains.
As the Lord in mercy calls us away this year from following the nine unthankful lepers, He brings us with the one thankful one here to the feet of Jesus. Yes, beloved, there is a lot to be thankful for in what the Lord pours out on us in this world, even if we can and will lose it, but nothing compares to what we find in what the Father has opened up His hand to give us here. That truth is highlighted all the more for us this year in all that is missing for us, because that cannot and will not happen with what the Lord pours out upon us here.
Family? Friends? Yes, we can be separated from all of them by a pandemic or sickness and death. But Jesus? No, nothing can separate us from Him - not death or life, angels or rulers, or things present or things to come, or powers, or height or depth, or anything else in all of creation. This One who has promised to be with us always even unto the end of the age has proven that by His resurrection victory over all the powers of this age. No. no matter where you may be, you are never alone, beloved, the Lord is always with you with that great cloud of witnesses that is ever with Him.
Family feasts? Yes, they too can come and go and eventually drift away into the mists of time. Families grow up, children move away and loved ones die. But the marriage feast of the Lamb? No, beloved, that’s an eternal one. It began some two thousand years ago and it has not and never will end. It is an eternal feast with an eternal host and eternal food. Where it comes and how often it comes to us in this world, may differ over the years, but it always unites us with the heavenly banquet that is the same and in the same place with the same host and guests yesterday, today and forever.
Thanksgiving. Yes, there is a lot to be thankful about here today, as we for the first time in six months have been able to raise our voices in song with the ten lepers, “Lord, have mercy upon us, Christ, have mercy upon us, Lord, have mercy upon us.” And even more so as the Lord graciously hears that cry of faith and answers us with His great Thanksgiving feast, where He gives us the forgiveness of all our sins and the gift of eternal life with His body and blood. Amen.